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January 9, 2004

Mike Miller and the Art of Squashing Debate

John P. Snyder

Can you blame them? Senate Democrats in Annapolis are there to carry out Godís will. Always getting in the way are those pesky Republicans, all 14 of them, who sometimes rise up to create a filibuster in order to kill legislation or force a compromise.

To Mike Miller, Senate president and current subject of an FBI investigation, there exists a need to make it easier to end debate and force a vote. He proposes to change the rule to override a filibuster from a two-thirds vote (32 members) to just 29. Shouldn't we just make it unlawful to ever disagree with him?

But consider Senator Millerís dilemma. Gone are the days when the Republican opposition was meek and timid. There was a time when Republicans in the State Senate were indistinguishable from their Democratic counterparts. Todayís Senate Republicans are smart, crafty and unafraid. The use of a filibuster is a time honored weapon that is really the only option for the outnumbered.

Senator Miller and his acolytes have accused the Republicans of "abusing and trivializing" the filibuster. Considering that they are outnumbered 33 to 14 you would think 32 votes would be easily attained. Apparently not!

One suspects Senator Millerís real motive is to create enough legislation that is unpalatable to Gov. Robert Ehrlich that he has to veto a substantial number of bills. It could be that he grows weary of seeing his favorite legislation bottled up by a talkfest at the end of the Session. Most likely is his desire to have more control over the process.

Those Democrats, who are honest about the situation, know that the divide between the screaming liberalism from the Peter Franchot and Brian Frosh wing of the Democratic Party is simply incompatible with the rest of the state.

Senators from areas like Anne Arundel County and Southern Maryland will have to distance themselves from the liberal wing if they want to keep their job, which is another reason to lower the bar.

Given the arrogance and elitism that has characterized the Democratic leadership, the move to modify the rules regarding filibusters is not surprising. They never lose. They just change the rules.

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